One of the greatest threats to Christianity is syncretism. Syncretism is a fancy word but it is an important one to know. Here is a definition for Syncretism:
The attempt to assimilate differing or opposite doctrines and practices, especially between philosophical and religious systems, resulting in a new system altogether in which the fundamental structure and tenets of each have been changed. Syncretism of the gospel occurs when its essential character is confused with elements from the culture. In syncretism the gospel is lost as the church simply confirms what is already present in the culture. (PDTT, 111)
We are all prone to syncretism. It comes naturally to us to add to the Gospel and completely distort Christianity. Our propensity to take biblical, authentic Christianity and distort it into a religion of our own making should frighten us into a continual state of self-evaluation. If the true Gospel is not viciously guarded and defended the drift into syncretism will happen faster than we thought possible.
Syncretism is sneaky. It creeps in often unaware as we begin to import the idols of culture into our faith and churches. They often enter unnoticed but like any disease begins to fester and grow into deadly unhealthiness. Syncretism was not only a problem for the early church (Col 2) but also for the nation of Israel. Over the course of their history we see their tendency to reject their monotheism to polytheism. They deny the exclusivity of Yahweh and begin to worship Baal or any other pagan god. Israel's desire to be like other nations even included importing their false gods to worship. As a result of they syncretism which grew into just plain idolatry, The Lord brought judgement and exile upon the nation.
A blind eye to syncretism can be deadly. We would be fools to think that there are not some ways we are importing the idolatrous ideas of culture into Christianity. In the west this is a particular problem that goes unnoticed, yet we must attack syncretism and guard the precious Gospel with our lives. Here are a few common areas where syncretism is common in American Christianity.
1. The god of Comfort
The god of comfort and leisure has greatly consumed the minds of Christians. We tend to have an love for an easy and comfortable life. Ideas like persecution, hardship, or cross-cultural evangelism just seems to uncomfortable. God wants us to be at leisure right?
2. The god of Materialism
Materialism is a poison that has greatly influenced the church. We love things and we love stuff even though it will all end up in the dump one day. Even in our church we tend to have a love for huge buildings, fancy technology, and attractive decor. God wants us to be rich right?
3. The god of Free-Sex
Over the last few decades the sexual revolution has impacted the churches understanding of sin and sexuality. The biblical truth that sex is a good gift from God reserved between a man and his wife in the covenant of marriage is largely ignored. We tend to tolerate sexual sin among Christians making excuses for our additions to pornography, homosexuality, or sex outside of marriage. We import the cultures understanding of sexuality into Christianity. God is love right?
4. The god of Tolerance
Our cultures understanding of tolerance comes from a position of pluralism. A true understanding of tolerance is allowing other people to have differing view points. Christians should be tolerant in this sense. But to be tolerant in our cultures eyes is to not only allow differing view points but to celebrate them. In honor of the god of pluralism many Christians operate in a If-its-right-for-you mindset. The god of tolerance tells us it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe. God tells us to believe, right?
The Very Real Danger of Syncretism
As you can see it is so very easy for us to begin importing the idols of culture into biblical Christianity. I just mentioned a few, but the danger is real. We must defend what the Bible says is the true Gospel and we must constantly evaluate our own hearts and actions as individuals and as a church to make sure we are not importing idols into our Christianity. The threat of syncretism is real and we must be on guard from our wandering hearts who continually seek to great a religion of our own making.
Are there any idols that I missed? Be sure to share with us in the comments.